A June 27, 2011 photograph of the 16th-century Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum. Photo Credit: PA

Two expert committees appointed by the Indian Supreme Court began documenting the wealth of the famed Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of the southern Indian state of Kerala, Monday, amidst tight security arrangements.

In July last year, a treasure trove of gold and precious jewels was discovered in the vaults of the 16th century temple, making it the richest temple in the country and one of the wealthiest religious institutions in the world.

The search team set up by the Supreme Court and headed by former Kerala High Court judge Justice M N Krishnan opened four of the six underground chambers of the temple to find an array of wealth.

In September 2011, the Supreme Court postponed the opening of the other two vaults until necessary steps were taken up to protect and conserve the treasure found.

Though the final documentation will reveal the actual worth of the temple treasure, the hoard is widely estimated to be worth $17 billion.

Among the precious items found in the temple include a four-feet-tall gold statue of Lord Vishnu (also called Lord Padmanabha, and hence, the name of the temple) studded with emeralds, 15-feet-long gold necklaces and jewel-encrusted crowns. Another golden idol of Lord Sree Krishna was found, weighing around 5 kg, according to temple authorities.

 The temple has 6 Secret Cellars - from Cellar A to Cellar F. Opening of each of these chambers is revealing a virtual treasure trove with precious diamonds, golden ornaments, emeralds, jewelries, rare antique silver and brass platters and golden idols, a statement on temple's official site reads.

Other interesting items made of pure gold found in the temple include several gold coins, numerous human figurine weighing 1 kg, bangles, rope, coconut shells and the like.

The discovery of the treasure that was hidden for centuries drew world attention to the temple attracting tourists to the place.

Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, an architectural delight in granite, is run by a trust governed by the royal family of Travancore, who rebuilt the temple in its current form in 18th century. The royals worship Lord Vishnu.

While more details are expected to get revealed post the assessment of the temple wealth, local news channels reported that the royal family has been doing special worships for Lord Vishnu ever since the discovery of the treasure, in a belief that opening of the temple vaults may have angered Lord Vishnu.